Having scored many crucial tries for the All Blacks, it was fitting Beauden Barrett’s cover tackle on fullback Stuart Hogg at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield on Sunday should deny Scotland The Brave their first test rugby triumph against New Zealand in 112 years.
Taranaki’s favourite son is not the wizard he was in 2016 when he won International Player of the Year status after leaving opponents spellbound. But he’ still a class act even if he and his All Black team-mates have struggled to counter the rush defence inflicted upon them.
Barrett proved that with that tackle on brilliant man of the match Hogg and earlier when he hared across for a superb try after smart work from Sonny Bill Williams and Damian McKenzie.
There was also some powerful runs from right wing Rieko Ioane and great scrummaging from Kane Hames under his posts at the death to win a penalty when his scrum was a man short after Wyatt Crockett was sin-binned.
But this was a test Scotland should have won after dominating possession and territory and playing with greater enterprise. That they didn’t was a tribute once again to the All Blacks’ disciplined defence.
If New Zealand has felt the absence through injury to Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Jerome Kaino, Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Jordie Barrett weakened them, spare a thought for Scotland who had 13 of their best unavailable.
This from a team from which coach Warren Gatland considered only two good enough to tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.
Meanwhile Gatland will fancy Wales’ chances this weekend against the jaded tourists although northern hemisphere teams face the same problem when coming to our country mid-year after a long wearisome season.
Meanwhile, the Kiwis hit the pits when they were beaten 4-2 by Fiji in a tryless game which exposed their lack of attacking smarts and were knocked out of the Rugby League World Cup.
The only thing they could feel satisfied with was their strong defence despite the bizarre optimistic comments made by captain Adam Blair and coach David Kidwell relating to their pride team’s performance and growing culture.
To fix a problem, one first has to admit there is one. To deny it suggests there exists an even bigger one with the team’s leaders.
Just three wins in 10 tests by Kidwell pales when matched against the 89 per cent success record of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who, admittedly, has far greater resources to call upon.
Still, not is all doom and gloom judging from the promise shown by Joseph Tipane, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Danny Levi and Te Maire Martin who should prosper if and when the Kiwis find a more astute mentor.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author